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Opinion

Navigating the Growth of Livestream Shopping and Effective Influencer Collaboration

The influencer marketing industry is booming. New platforms, influencers, and strategies are emerging seemingly every day. This momentum is showing no sign of slowing down, and with it comes truly innovative and ingenious influencer applications that help brands connect with their audiences in exciting, authentic, and engaging ways.

The latest trend within the influencer marketing industry is live stream shopping, where influencers can document their interactions with different products in real-time, while also providing users with the ability to seamlessly purchase the featured products for themselves.

Fueled largely by the growth of e-commerce and influencer activity throughout the pandemic, companies across the board are turning to live stream shopping as a way to promote new product launches and some of the year’s biggest sales events. You can see the growth of the trend through events like “Amazon Live,” created to promote Prime Day in 2020, and the development of QVC’s live stream shopping channel on YouTube TV. 

China is currently dominating the live stream shopping space, with live streaming projected to generate as much as 20% of the nation’s total e-commerce sales by 2022. We’re seeing it become increasingly popular here in North America, and I expect live stream shopping to continue to trend upwards.

As brands look to learn more about live stream shopping, there are some key considerations and strategies they must learn in order to get the most out of their investment and drive successful live stream shopping campaigns.

But first, the basics

Before learning how to interact with live stream influencers, brands first need to understand who they are and where they operate. Livestream influencers are different from your “traditional” influencer or blogger. They are a new breed of influencers who operate more like salespeople. They have a specific set of skills that allow them to sell to their audience and invoke a sense of fear of missing out in real-time, driving immediate action. That real-time nature of interacting with an influencer during a live stream creates a deeper connection with audiences – they can share questions on the spot and create a unique shared excitement that isn’t otherwise achievable. 

But where do these live-stream shopping experiences actually take place? There are a lot of different options here. A live streamer can use their personal social account on platforms like Instagram Live or Facebook Live. Retailers can also host their own live stream shopping events on their owned sites or participate in live stream events from third-party partners like Amazon or QVC. 

If a retailer chooses to host the live stream shopping event on their own sites, there’s a growing pool of vendors that offer services to help schedule and host events with integrated shopping capabilities like add-to-cart in the stream, simulcasting across different sites and pages, integration with social channels, customer and viewer data aggregation and analysis, and more. 

Once a brand decides where and how they plan on hosting their live stream shopping event, it’s time to find the right influencer to partner with.

Figuring out the “why” and “who”  

When it comes to finding influencers to partner with for live stream events, merchants can leverage a range of resources like influencer search engines, live stream influencer networks (e.g. Amazon Live), and industry articles and “top influencer” lists that highlight the most engaging and successful live stream influencers available.

It’s also important to remember that these influencers are more than just live streamers. Their skills carry throughout other platforms and strategies, too, so looking for an influencer that can help deliver exponential value beyond this one project is key. They should be able to host successful events, yes – but they could prove to be a great affiliate partner or a prospect for a social campaign in the future.

Regardless of the influencer that’s chosen, it’s important that you know what you want to get out of the event before diving in. This will help you better understand what type of programme and platform will be best suited to help you meet your marketing objectives.

For example, if a live stream shopping campaign is built around a new product launch and the goal is to raise awareness of the key features that the product has to offer, then investing in macro-influencers with larger audiences will be beneficial. These macro-influencers are great for delivering against upper-funnel objectives like brand awareness and prospecting.

On the other hand, if the goal is to drive sales during a seasonal shopping event, then investing in influencers with more moderate audience sizes will help drive those sales. Micro and nano-level influencers are proven to have more engaged followers who are more likely to convert on a sale, rather than a larger influencer with a massive following.

Knowing how to mix and match your influencer partners to meet your specific marketing objectives will help ensure that you are getting the most out of your live stream shopping investment.

Let the influencer take the wheel

It’s very easy for a brand to get caught up in attempting to control every aspect of an influencer marketing programme, and live stream shopping is no different. In fact, the “real-time” nature of live streaming can be understandably uncomfortable for brands who are used to having complete control over their message and identity. With that said, it’s crucial that an investment in live stream shopping is done with the creative freedom of the influencer in mind. 

Influencers are powerful because of their authenticity and their deep understanding of their audiences. Brands that try to deliver a live stream shopping experience that’s scripted or too “on the rails” are going to do more harm than good. Brands inherently want to protect their identity and control their messaging, but it’s important to understand that the consumer appeal of live stream shopping is the opportunity to experience something totally unique and organic. 

Influencers understand their audiences better than anyone. When investing in live stream shopping, allow them the creative freedom to make engaging content that their followers have come to expect.

Balancing authenticity with brand messaging

While it is important to trust in the influencer to deliver an engaging live stream shopping experience on their own, it’s still important to help the influencer prepare with short key messages that you want to get across. 

Giving the influencer a shortlist of messages and allowing them to expand upon them and deliver them in a way that they know will resonate with their audience is a recipe for success. This way, the brand not only is able to capitalise on the authenticity of the influencer but also ensure that key brand and product messages are at the heart of the live stream shopping experience. It’s an easy way to deliver a live stream experience that isn’t necessarily controlled but built within the boundaries of the brand. 

Act fast or fall behind

Like any emerging strategy, getting in early is key – especially in an industry that is dictated by the ever-evolving trends of social media. 

As live streaming becomes increasingly popular, brands willing to be adventurous and test will find great success. Those who hesitate or wait for live streaming to further develop will be left by the wayside, missing early adopter advantages and learnings, and will ultimately fall behind. It’s always in the best interest of a brand to invest in marketing R&D – and live streaming is the next smart bet.

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